Entries in Community Innovation Forum (1)


Learning not just for students at Community Innovation Forum

The 2015 Community Innovation Forum (CIF) was another great success.  The Forum is an annual student showcase of applied learning and community-based research projects hosted by Fleming College, Trent University, Trent Community Research Centre and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster.  The students are from Trent University and Fleming College and this year there were 54 projects in total on display. 

I have attended the event for the past two years and this year I was honoured to be asked to be a judge for the Fleming College projects.  Fleming’s Applied Learning Projects were from four programs: International Trade, Marketing, Computer Technology and Wireless Information Technology.   

Clipboard in hand, I and my judging mates (Gary and Rob from Bell) set out to speak with the students about their projects.  We were to look at the project through the lens of innovation.  How did the students use innovation to find a solution for their client?  

It became clear that for each group innovation meant something a bit different.  In many cases it involved digital media, e.g. use of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, or a tangible such as a machine, device or a new program.  We also met students who felt innovation was simply a new way of approaching a problem.   

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “innovation” as: 

  1. The introduction of something new
  2. A new idea, method, or device  

I found that I was most interested in hearing how the students created their plan. What did they think about, how well did they know their client, how did they arrive at the solution, and how did they deal with obstacles encountered along the way?  We found some unique thinkers and some not-so unique thinkers.  

“Applied projects help to prepare students to be high performers in their careers and stimulate their entrepreneurial spirit,” said Raymond Yip Choy, Fleming faculty coordinator of the International Business Management and Project Management Programs. “Their participation in the CIF event helps them showcase their accomplishments, gain confidence and build their network.”

I hope that whether students walked away with prizes or not, they learned something about themselves, that they learned how they worked in a group setting; whether or not they have the entrepreneurial spirit.  

The Community Innovation Forum is not just a presentation of school projects.  It’s an opportunity for students to connect with employers and employers to connect with students.  This opportunity is evident between students and the clients for which the projects are completed and those who come to view and judge the projects.  

It’s an important connection to foster between Trent and Fleming and the larger Peterborough community.

A report released last fall by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce titled “A Battle We Can’t Afford to Lose: Getting Young Canadians from Education to Employment” speaks directly to the need for students to feel connected to the working world and employers connected to students.   

“We have to do a better job of preparing young people for the labour market,” remarks Perrin Beatty, President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC).

One way to do that is to prepare the labour market for the students by understanding the skills needed in our economy to propel it forward and providing students the opportunity to learn those skills.  

The CCC report identifies three key areas for successful transition:

  1. Labour market information
  2. Career decision making 
  3. Work integrated learning

An observation I made as a judge is that the Community Innovation Forum is a transition point for students.  They spend months working on their project and now they have to transition from a project focus to using their soft skills such as people skills, relationship building and communication to effectively describe their project and the hard work that went into it to judges.  

A study in the CCC report from the Canadian Council of Chief Executives shows that for entry-level hiring those soft skills are most desirable.  That said, you could call the Community Innovation Forum a job interview, whether it’s for an employer or a potential client.  

The Community Innovation Forum is also the result of months of work integrated learning.  As it stands it is a great example of employer/student collaboration, but how can we improve the program?  What are the opportunities for local businesses to participate?  Do local businesses have projects that would fit with this concept and how do we open the door further to those conversations?  

Hopefully, we just did.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.